Shoshana Walter is a reporter for Reveal, covering criminal justice. She and reporter Amy Julia Harris exposed how courts across the country are sending defendants to rehabs that are little more than lucrative work camps for private industry. Their work was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in national reporting. It also won the Knight Award for Public Service, a Sigma Delta Chi Award for investigative reporting, and an Edward R. Murrow Award, and was a finalist for the Selden Ring, IRE and Livingston Awards. It led to numerous government investigations, two criminal probes and five federal class-action lawsuits alleging slavery, labor violations and fraud.
Walter's investigation on America's armed security guard industry revealed how armed guard licenses have been handed out to people with histories of violence, even people barred by courts from owning guns. Walter and reporter Ryan Gabrielson won the 2015 Livingston Award for Young Journalists for national reporting based on the series, which prompted new laws and an overhaul of California’s regulatory system. For her 2016 investigation about the plight of "trimmigrants," marijuana workers in California's Emerald Triangle, Walter embedded herself in illegal mountain grows and farms. There, she encountered an epidemic of sex abuse and human trafficking in the industry – and a criminal justice system focused more on the illegal drugs. The story prompted legislation, a criminal investigation and grass-roots efforts by the community, including the founding of a worker hotline and safe house.
Walter began her career as a police reporter for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida, and previously covered violent crime and the politics of policing in Oakland, California, for The Bay Citizen. Her narrative nonfiction as a local reporter garnered a national Sigma Delta Chi Award and a Gold Medal for Public Service from the Florida Society of News Editors. A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, she has been a Dart Center Ochberg fellow for journalism and trauma at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim fellow in criminal justice journalism. She is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.
Despite deadly injuries and multiple investigations into illegal labor practices, work-based rehabs are an American growth industry.
Reveal exposes how a treatment for drug addiction has turned tens of thousands of people into an unpaid, shadow workforce.
A top Arkansas senator used unpaid rehab workers at his plastics factory. Now, participants have been awarded more than $1.1 million in back wages.
At a Cenikor drug rehab in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, residents were given two days to find a place to live. Some became homeless.
A Reveal exposé found that the drug rehab has sent thousands of patients to work without pay at hundreds of for-profit companies over the years.
“Cenikor has turned patients struggling with addiction into a pool of unpaid, forced labor,” according to one of the suits.
“I can’t fathom this being legitimate,” one former Labor Department investigator says of a drug rehab’s work program.
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